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UNG panel offers advice to immigrants encountering law enforcement
Brenda Lopez

What should immigrants do if federal agents come knocking at the door, or if they are pulled over by law enforcement?

Those questions and many more were addressed Wednesday night during a community forum on immigration presented by the Latino Student Association at the University of North Georgia Gainesville campus.

“You’re not obligated to open the door,” said Brenda Lopez in response to the knock on the door by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. “Ask them to slip under the door an order of arrest signed by a judge.”

Lopez is an attorney in Norcross that focuses her practice on immigration matters. The Gwinnett County Democrat is also the first Latina elected to the Georgia State House. She represents House District 99.

In cases of traffic stops, Lopez said be prepared to show your ID and say little.

“The best policy is to not answer any questions,” Lopez said.

UNG student Nataly Morales Villa moderated the community forum conducted in Spanish and English in the Robinson Ballroom at the Student Center. Several dozen attended. The program was held mid-day at UNG with the same panelists participating.

Asked to address some of the myths surrounding immigration, participant Jaime Rangel was quick to dispel the notion that immigrants living in the country without legal permission should “get to the back of the line.”

Rangel is a legislative aide with Atlanta-based Donnelly McDonald Group.

“There is no line ... the system is broken,” Rangel said.

Claiming to be the only member of his Mexican household without legal status, Rangel said he has to scramble every two years to renew his status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order that protects immigrants through an executive order by former president Barack Obama.

Rangel is among Latino leaders who have been championing in-state tuition for so-called “Dreamers” with DACA status.

Rangel said he pays almost $2,000 as an out-of-state student to enroll in just one class at Dalton State College. By comparison, he said his buddy, who is eligible for in-state tuition, pays $2,000 for the entire semester.

Rounding out the panel was Maria Palacios — program coordinator for leadership development and policy with the Georgia Association of Elected Officials, also based in Atlanta.

Palacios gave a round-up of some of the anti-immigration legislation that made its way through the state legislature recently, and the effort by GALEO and others to oppose such legislation. She said the vast majority of such legislation, including an attempt to create a special driver’s license and ID cards identifying immigrants without legal status, failed.

“Every year we get legislation like that,” Palacios said.

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